By LARRY LAGE (AP Sports Writer)
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Jim Harbaugh expects the four suspended Michigan State football players involved in roughing up two members of Michigan’s team to be punished to the fullest extent of the law.
“I can’t imagine that this will not result in criminal charges,” the Michigan coach said Monday.
Michigan State coach Mel Tucker said later Monday that it would be irresponsible to respond to Harbaugh’s call for criminal charges due to the ongoing investigation.
“We’re not here to make any excuses for the behaviors Saturday,” Tucker said. “They are unacceptable.”
Harbaugh said defensive back Gemon Green was punched by a Spartan in the Michigan Stadium tunnel to spark the melee shortly after the fourth-ranked Wolverines beat their in-state rival on Saturday night and teammate Ja’Den McBurrows was attacked when he tried to help.
McBurrows is seen on a video shared on social media being pushed, punched and kicked by multiple Michigan State players, who pulled him out of the tunnel and into a hallway that doesn’t lead to either locker room.
Harbaugh said both players have injuries, adding he did not know if Green, a starting cornerback for a third straight season, would be cleared to play Saturday night at Rutgers.
Tucker announced Sunday night that linebacker Tank Brown, safety Angelo Grose, defensive end Zion Young and cornerback Khary Crump were suspended immediately. Tucker said the decision was made after “reviewing the disturbing electronic evidence.”
Brown, Grose and Young are seen on video getting physical with McBurrows.
“The incidents involving a small group of our players do not represent our culture,” Tucker said.
Tucker was very close to the aftermath, standing in the tunnel as Green was surrounded by police and escorted to the locker room while he shouted at Michigan State players. One social media post shows a Spartan, whose identity is not clear, appearing to swing his helmet at Green.
McBurrows and Green went up the tunnel alongside the Spartans following the game while many of Michigan’s players were waving their rivals off the field and other Wolverines were celebrating near the stadium’s student section.
“They were walking up the tunnel,” Harbaugh said when asked why Green and McBurrows were not with the rest of their teammates.
University of Michigan Deputy Police Chief Melissa Overton said Saturday night that an investigation began in partnership with Michigan State police, Michigan’s athletic department and the Wolverines’ football program.
“The investigation takes some time,” Overton said Sunday.
Tucker said the school is working with law enforcement, Michigan State and Michigan campus leadership, and the Big Ten Conference to evaluate what happened, including identifying other players who were involved in the altercations and contributing factors.
“The suspensions will allow the players to receive academic support and medical services, but they will not be able to attend any organized team activities,” said Tucker, who said the suspensions will remain in place until the investigations are completed.
Tucker’s head was touched in the tunnel by a fan in the stands Saturday night and the coach responded by swiping the fan’s hand away.
Michigan State President Samuel Stanley apologized for the “violent” skirmish.
“I’m extremely saddened by this incident and the unacceptable behavior depicted by members of our football program,” Stanley said in a statement. “On behalf of Michigan State University, my heartfelt apology to the University of Michigan and the student athletes who were injured.”
Harbaugh said Monday an apology is not enough.
The Big Ten said Sunday it is gathering information and plans to take appropriate action.
It was the second straight game at Michigan that included an altercation in the long, narrow tunnel that goes from the locker rooms to the field.
Earlier this month, Penn State coach James Franklin said a policy change was needed to provide a more orderly use of the tunnel.
Some heated words were exchanged, and Michigan players said Penn State players threw peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at them as the teams headed to the locker room at halftime of a close game the Wolverines ultimately won 41-17 on Oct. 15.
Harbaugh said Franklin acted as a “ringleader” and claimed the Nittany Lions stopped in the tunnel to prevent his team from accessing its locker room.
Follow Larry Lage at https://twitter.com/larrylage
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